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Steven Luke Reports
I don't know about you, but I'm beyond outraged that a state official killed a mountain lion during a hunt in Idaho.
Doubly shocking, this official was, of all things, the chair of the California Fish & Game Commission.
Yes, such a kill would be illegal in California.
But as with so many things in California's governing system, there are loopholes, ways around our laws. Going to Idaho to kill this noble beast was one.
The fact that he also ate the lion is even more outrageous.
The good news is that Democrats, led by Lt. Gavin Newsom, have stepped forward and, without doing any media grandstanding whatsoever, have courageously demanded the resignation of the chair, Dan Richards.
But this won't be enough. As we know in California, a crisis like this requires more than denunciation; we need major reforms to keep it from happening again.
So drawing on the best thinking of California's leading elected officials and reformers, here are five approaches to end the scourge of out-of-state lion killing by state officials.
1. An initiative ban.
Yes, the legislature could pass a law banning out of state kills. But is that really enough protection?
A law passed one year can be modified or repealed in future years. If you're serious about saving the mountain lions of Idaho and the entire Pacific Northwest from bloodthirsty, state commissioners, you need an initiative statute.
Such a statute couldn't be touched by lawmakers, no matter what; another vote of the people would be necessary. And of course, an initiative can't be defied; for example, no one in Calfornia would think of cutting education funding since we have an education funding guarantee, Prop 98.
2. Supermajority protection.
It may be unwise to outlaw hunting completely -- there could be times when we want a state official to go out of state, like for example if a herd rhinos were to rampage down the Las Vegas Strip, trampling visiting Californians and others.
Our mutual aid treaties might force us to do some hunting then. But such situations are rare, so it's probably wise to have a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature before a state offiicial can kill any animal outside the state.
The supermajority should be even higher -- three quarters -- for an in-state kill.
3. A spending limit.
Spending limits make everything better.
You don't even need to outlaw out-of-state hunting or think very hard about tradeoffs and policies. No, just slap a spending limit on the fish and game commissioners.
This would have to apply not only to their own work but to their personal lives. Let's say, no more than $100 for a personal out of state hunting trip. Could you even get to Idaho for that?
As Gov. Jerry Brown has shown, some issues really should be left to local governments, and it's very clear that regulating the out of state hunting activities of fish and game commissioners is one of those issues.
So let's shut down the commission, and leave out of state hunting in the hands of the counties.
Now, of course, we can't let the counties raise the fees or revenues for this kind of regulation -- that sort of realignment is much too unrealistic and big a reform -- but the state should send the counties about half the money the commission currently spends on the commission, and give them detailed instructions on how they should do the job.
That's Brown-style realignment, dude. Power to the locals!
5. Performance-based hunting.
With all the nasty partisan sniping about the morality or legality of the hunting issue, the good people in the center in California are really turned off. And frustrated.
The people just want their fish and game commission, and the out of state hunting of the commissioners, to be effective and efficient.
So we need to put aside the partisan wrangling (and the partisan shooting and killing and game-eating for that matter), and come up with thorough, bureaucratic ways to measure this kind of behavior. Looking at other states, the best method is performance-based hunting.
We'll want to know how many hours a commissioner spends hunting out of state, how many shots it takes him to kill, and what his greenhouse gas emissions are during the time he spends cooking the lion over an open flame.
That'll give us a number of metrics to evaluate commissioners' out-of-state hunting, and thus give the public greater confidence in the system before we take on any larger policy changes.
Now, yes, there will be some voices, unrealistic voices, calling for direct action.
For just firing the guy or telling the fish and game chairman he shouldn't violate California rules out of front.
There will even be some people who think that taking action on these reforms is, dare I say it, overkill and that the state faces far more pressing problems.
To those critics, I say, you just don't know California.